Up With “Way Down East”

A melodrama of pain, disaster and love, D.W. Griffith‘s Way Down East (1920), a silent film, is an energetic attack on snobbery and hardheartedness.

Lillian Gish is quietly sensitive and moving as a country girl tricked into a false marriage by a wealthy womanizer, a caricature successfully played by Lowell Sherman.  Griffith wonderfully cinematized a 19th century play by Lottie Blair Parker, with tragic moments involving the Gish character and humorous moments involving minor folks, not Gish, such as Seth and (repelling) Martha, with their farcical faces.  The film has no epic scope, but it is a staggering production all the same.

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